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Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem

Title: The Spirit of the Place
Author: Samuel Shem
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 334 (only read 132)
Format: Paperback from publisher for review
Rating: DNF
Finished: quit on 7-6-08

Samuel Shem's The Spirit of the Place is the story of Orville Rose, who is forced to leave Europe and live in his mother's home after her death by the bequest of her will; he is to live in the house for 1 year and 13 days in order to receive his inheritance. I am assuming that it is his mother's idea that after that much time, he will settle down and stop running from the things in his life that make him unhappy.

I tried to finish this book. I even went beyond my 100 page mark, even though the I did not care what happened with the sometimes overly clich├ęd story or to the sometimes overly stereotyped characters (if by 100 pages, it hasn't entirely grabbed my attention yet, I'm done with it - there are far more books on my shelf that warrant reading at that point). I waded through overbearing remarks on how a man is only happy with a family that included a child; an overbearing over-Jewish mother who seems to find it necessary to bring guilt on her son even after death, through "mysterious" letters written to him from beyond the grave, and then also haunting him as a ghost; constant reminders for what a poor excuse for a town Columbia is. I can't decide if Samuel Shem is writing a love story or some sort of medical story steeped in magical realism.

I was willing to give this all a try until the "explosion." We've all read the story in our emails, of the drunken fishermen using dynamite to break a hole in the ice; the dog fetching the stick of dynamite and bringing it back to the stunned fishermen, only to have it then explode. Fun little story to be emailed back and forth ad nauseam, right? Well, apparently Samuel Shem thinks this is worthy of placing in his novel, as well. At that point, I'm through with the story. If he can't come up with a plausible type of tragedy on his own, that he has to resort to ridiculous emailed urban legends and pass them off as his own, then I don't see much hope for the rest of the book.


My Journey Through Reading... said...

I was really interested in reading this until I started reading the reviews. You're not the only one who felt this way! 100 pages is dedication.

tapestry100 said...

Generally, if a book hasn't caught my attention entirely by 100 pages, I know it doesn't hold much hope for the rest. Sometimes I can tell if the book has greatness coming (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell) and I will hold out even if I find the reading a little tedious, but this was definitely one that I knew wasn't going to get much better.

Wendy said...

I got this through the March LT Early Reviewers pick...but didn't actually receive the book until last week. I'm not too thrilled to read it given the crap reviews I've seen...but, I'll give it a try since it came as a freebie.